The Pegasus snooping scandal continues to rock Parliament. The Lok Sabha has been adjourned until July 22 after members of opposition parties raised placards and shouted slogans alleging snooping by the government.
The opposition is demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe into the charges of snooping on journalists, politicians, ministers, judges and others using the Israeli Pegasus spyware.
Separately, an investigation by French media outlet Le Monde reveals that the phones of over 2,000 people in India and Pakistan have been attacked and that these phones were targeted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel in July 2017.
These 2,000 people include foreign diplomats from the United Kingdom, Pakistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Saudi Arabia who are working in India.
Officials at Gates Foundation and the US CDC office in Delhi were also allegedly targeted along with Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi, Kashmiri Separatist leaders as well as current Jal Shakti Minister Prahlad Singh Patel and Railways Minister Ashwini Vaisnaw.
Meanwhile, American Whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned that if nothing is done to stop sale of this technology, it's not just going to be 50,000 targets. It's going to be 50 million. According to him, governments around the world must impose a moratorium on the spyware trade.
To take this discussion forward, CNBC-TV18’s Parikshit Luthra spoke to Daniel Bastard, Director - Asia-Pacific of Reporters Without Borders; Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, SC, Founder of HRLN; Praveen Swami, Group Consulting Editor of Network18, and Nikhil Pahwa, founder, MediaNama.
Nikhil Pahwa said, “Victims involved over here there is a possibility, but a remote possibility of a foreign government being involved over here. If you look at the government’s statements in Parliament they have not explicitly denied authorising the use of this surveillance. They have only said that there was no unauthorised surveillance. If they had not authorised it then they should explicitly say it. So to my mind the suspicion still is on the Indian government.”
Praveen Swami said, “The government has been less than transparent in response in this. The one critical question we haven’t had a straight forward answer to is what the nature of intelligence services dealings with the NSO group actually are. Have they procured Pegasus or other tools from NSO, who has been responsible for using them and what does the government intend to do now that there is at least a prima facie evidence that they have been used against Indian citizens. This to my mind is the absolutely key pointer.”
He added, “It is one thing to spy on Prime Minister Imran Khan or foreign diplomats, that is after all the stuff what intelligence services across the world do. As Indian citizens though we are protected by Indian law, there are laws that governed interception of digital or phone communications in this country and what seems to becoming clear is that those laws have not being followed.”
Colin said, “To my mind this looks like an insider’s job. I don’t think we should look for somebody abroad trying to getting into data of Indian judges, journalists and so on. It seems totally in sync with what the central government is trying to do. Surveillance is the order of the day, central government took the help of some people elsewhere and started looking at its own citizens that is the crux of the matter.”
For full interview, watch accompanying video...
(Edited by : Bivekananda Biswas)